Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moments of Idiocy: The Horseback Version

Remember my mention of Blue, our temperamental appaloosa I grew up on? Well, I didn't completely grow up on him. My Granddad Pat gave him to my brother when I was nine years old. I remember, because the same year he gave me a paint horse colt, whom I promptly fell madly in love with and named Mischief. I groomed him and played with him, and sneaked him treats...(Okay, I gotta say. Sneaked seems totally wrong. I want to use snuck, but spell check denies it's existence. But, still, I'm more a snuck kinda gal, so I'm using sneaked under protest.)

Never name a horse Mischief. He will undoubtedly live up to his name. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I was never allowed to ride any of the horses at my Granddad's because they were never gentle enough. I'm sure there was no hereditary "mean gene" in him. All I do know is that horse was mean.

He liked to try and bite my shoulder when I was distracted dealing with his cinch.

Or, he would get mad in the middle of a ride, and turn his head and try to bite my foot. No kidding. If that isn't mean, I don't know what is. Or, he might decide to start pitching. Or run off. Whatever he could think of to get out of a ride.

Obviously, Mischief and I never advanced our relationship much passed the scratch his ears, give him a treat phase...

My brother had no interest whatsoever in anything that could be conceived as remotely "farm" at that phase of his life. Also, the horse I had learned to ride on died tragically. His name was Bay Dandy. He developed pneumonia in his old age, and when Dad sent him to the vet, he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. That is the first time I ever saw my dad cry, and we both sat on my bottom bunk and he held me and cried silently while I sobbed all over him...

Anyway, all of that to say, I ended up riding Blue. Yes, he was temperamental. Yes, he was high strung, but he had heart. And he loved to work, so I loved him.

One day when I was in high school Dad sent me to ride through some cattle a mile north our house. Do you remember I told you that Blue had a tendency to tear things up if not properly tied? Well, I got to the gate, and there was a tree hanging over it, and Blue absolutely refused to go under it for me to get to the gate.

Another detail about this gate that will be pertinent later in our story: This gate had what I call a "cheater" on it. The cheater is a lever action clamp type thing that goes around the fence post on tight gates. You hook the chain loop over the post, then flip the lever, and it pulls the gate taut. Reverse that to undo the gate...

I looked around, and realized that there was no place safe to tie him up, and I hadn't anticipated my problem, so I didn't have a lead rope on me. We used a roping rein on Blue. This is a single rein that loops around the horses neck and clips on the opposite side of his bridle. This is convenient when you rope, as you never have to worry about dropping a rein when you are trying to rope, then dally off on the saddle horn all before the calf hits the end of your rope. Not that I ever roped successfully. I never advanced beyond roping the steer head on a bale of hay, or a fence post in the corral...

But, returning to the situation at hand. I needed to get to the gate. And, Blue was having none of it. When I tried to lead him under the tree he planted his feet, rolled his eyes and started throwing his head.

I stopped and thought...

I had an idea!

I took the aforementioned roping rein that is in a continuous loop, attached to either side of the horses bit, and hooked it around the toe of my boot. I then proceeded to stretch into a balancing stick pose to flip the "cheater" on the gate.

Well, when that cheater flipped, and the gate sprung loose, Blue went berserk. He reared up and started backing up...

With his rein still around my boot. I was immediately jerked off balance and did a face plant in the thankfully sandy dirt of the gate....Then, I began to eat dirt. I was being drug backwards by my loyal mount!!

I quickly flipped onto my bottom so I at least wasn't face down...

He drug me about 20 yards and I got my foot worked loose...Then, he stopped. Sides heaving, nostrils flaring, body trembling, he looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. I got up, snatched his rein into my hand and started stroking his nose...

"It's okay, Blue. You're going to be okay. Calm down. I didn't mean to scare you. Sorry old boy," and so on. It took me a few minutes to get him calmed down. Then, we walked to the loosened gate, drug it out of our way, then he let me lead him back under the former tree of death to relatch the gate, gentle as a lamb.

Then, to my memory, we rode through the cattle, and returned to the house without further mishap.

Dumb horse.

Dumb girl for hooking the rein around my foot.